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Santa Cruz’s wheel brand branches into the road and gravel market with new carbon wheels

If you’re in the market for a new carbon fibre wheelset this year you are spoilt for choice, and another option to add to your list are these new Reserve 700c and 650b carbon wheels, launched this week. Instead of the usual aerodynamic focus, these have been inspired by traditional box-section aluminium rims used in the cobbled classics like Flanders and Roubaix and are aimed at providing extra comfort on rough roads.

If you’re not familiar with Reserve, it’s the in-house wheel brand of mountain bike company Santa Cruz. They’ve been doing mountain bike carbon rims wheels for a couple of years now and have decided to branch out into the road and gravel market with its new offering.

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The development of the wheels has been born out of the growing interest in riding rough roads, gravel tracks and generally roads and tracks that are far from smooth that many of the road.cc readers might be familiar with. Reserve set out to produce a carbon fibre rim that was capable of providing a bit more cushioning for this style of riding.

“This resurgence of rigid bike riding has borne a variety of ways to reduce the chatter and impact of these less-than-smooth surfaces. Whether it’s an undamped carbon leaf spring, a shortened version of a telescopic suspension fork, or simply stuffing the biggest tire possible into a bike frame, everyone’s looking to take the edge off. That’s what we set out to solve with the Reserve 700c and 650b rims,” explains the company.

In an unusual move, the company actually took inspiration from the traditional box-section aluminium rims favoured by pro racers for races like Flanders and Roubaix. Before the complete domination of carbon rims, these cobbled classics were the last bastion of the classic aluminium wheelset, the likes of the Ambrosio Nemesis was an absolute classic.

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The new rims have a lot in common with those box section rims and measure 22m wide internally, ideal for 30 to 45mm width tyres. Because the 700c rims generally have a smaller volume tyre, the company paid particular attention to the carbon layup to tune the ride and provide extra comfort. The strength of the carbon rim means just 24 spokes are needed per wheel and the spokes are offset to balance bracing angles and spoke tension on each side of the hub.

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Naturally, for a mountain bike company, the rims are tubeless-ready. It has developed a bead hook that it says looks like a Mavic UST rim and is intended to provide added resistance to the tyre burping at lower pressures with big impacts. How close these new rims are to the updated rim standards is unknown. Let’s hope so

Onto the 650b rims and the profiles is closer to what it’s offering mountain bikers. It’s still a low profile design with 24 spoke holes and optimised for 40 to 53mm tyres, or 2.1in. The tubeless compatibility comes via a hookless bead profile rather than the hooked bead of the 700c rims. They measure 25mm internally and 30.5mm externally.

Whichever wheel size you choose, you can expect Sapim CX Ray bladed spokes and a choice of DT Swiss 350 hubs (£1,599), Industry 9 Torch road hubs (£1,899) or Chris King hubs (£2,199). Or you can buy a rim for £599.

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For sure a lot of cash but not totally unreasonable when you start to look around at comparable options. We’ll hopefully get a pair in for testing to see what they’re all about.

If you want to see how strong a Santa Cruz carbon fibre frame is, and how the US company tests its products, it’s proudly sharing this video from a few years ago. 

More info here www.santacruzbicycles.com

David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.